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VERIFY fact-check: Risk levels with monkeypox and different surfaces

Doctors report that monkeypox spreads primarily through skin-to-skin contact. Here's what the research says about different surfaces.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — With more than 100 monkeypox cases reported Friday in the Carolinas, and evidence it is transmitting locally, some might be wondering how at-risk they are in their day-to-day lives.

Doctors say the virus primarily spreads through prolonged skin-to-skin contact, but public health literature also says it could spread through items or surfaces an infected person has used.

Different viruses can have different levels of success with "fomite," or surface-based transmission. So, how concerned should one be about catching monkeypox by touching surfaces in public?

Surface transmission is possible, not probable

Dr. Cameron Wolfe, an infectious disease specialist with Duke Health, said spread through surfaces in day-to-day activities in public is of low concern.

"It is overwhelmingly skin-to-skin contact, and intimate contact and prolonged contact," Wolfe said. "The idea that this can spread on money, or door handles, or chairs, or at the supermarket--it's just not an issue that we fortunately have to face."

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Wolfe calls surface spread "overwhelmingly the least likely way that this transmits."

Handling an infection in your home

However, Wolfe said the disinfecting urgency increases when there is a monkeypox case inside the home.

"We have to be very conscious within a household setting of how we manage clothes, bedsheets, linens... really high-touch surfaces within a household," Wolfe said. 

The CDC says cleaning soft surfaces can be particularly important, since Poxviruses seem to live longer in porous materials, like bedding and clothing.

The viruses can also thrive more when in dark, cool, and low-humidity environments.

The health agency says many disinfectants work against monkeypox, which is also very sensitive to UV light.

Contact Vanessa Ruffes at vruffes@wcnc.com and follow her on FacebookTwitter and Instagram  

  

VERIFY is dedicated to helping the public distinguish between true and false information. The VERIFY team, with help from questions submitted by the audience, tracks the spread of stories or claims that need clarification or correction. Have something you want VERIFIED? Text us at 704-329-3600 or visit /verify.

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